This is an update of a Twitter thread I wrote, with minor edits for typos and one or two addenda for clarity.
1/ I want to try to explain yet again my position. This is important, as it goes to the heart of a great deal of what I say here.
2/ @JonHaidt’s concept of the rider and the elephant operates not only within each of us individually but also within all of us collectively at the group level as a culture.
3/ Its effects at the cultural level are subtle, unperceived by most of us, below our radar. Yet the influence those effects have on our thinking is as powerful and as ubiquitous as is the effect gravity has on our bodies.
4/ Those effects operate in part as the unspoken assumptions, the unarticulated sense of the world, the perception of reality, the understanding of the nature of knowledge itself, and more, that under-girds everything we think, say, or do.
It’s the water in which we fish swim.
5/ It is the collection of things that “everybody knows,” and takes for granted as self-evident universal ground truth, upon which all arguments rest.
6/ A few people are aware of the concept of the rider and the elephant at the individual level, and a few of those people take it into consideration in their thinking and analyses.
7/ But, it seems to me, almost nobody is aware of it at the group level, and practically never is it ever considered in the debates that happen here.
Most of us fish are oblivious to the existence of water.
8/ A small handful of people are exceptions to this rule. @QA_NJ is one I’ve recently seen here on Twitter. @Musa_alGharbi is another.
9/ They are looking at the water. They are attuned to the unarticulated assumptions and presumptions, the sense of things, upon which rest the rational arguments people here make.
10/ One of those assumptions, part of the water in which we swim but of which we are unaware – a foundational sense in the heart of our collective cultural elephant – is…
…rationalism; aka reason-based choice.
11/ Our entire culture, it seems, rests on the assumption that if something can’t be explained with a rational argument then it can’t be true.
12/ We believe in rationalism so deeply that we often allow what we perceive to be a good argument persuade us to believe, say, and do things that deep down inside, our better angels tell us are wrong.
13/ Our unspoken, unquestioned, unquestionable, faith in reason shapes everything else we think, say, and do; including, and especially, what we collectively as a culture accept as legitimate knowledge, verifiable fact, and valid argumentation.
14/ There’s a word, an acronym actually, for the type of thinking we accept as real:
WEIRD thinking is explained by Jon Haidt in Beyond WEIRD Morality from his book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion
15/ Our religion-like belief in WEIRD thinking translates, or maybe the right word is extrapolates, into the corollary beliefs that only scientific thinking is real thinking, only scientific or statistical data is legitimate data, and only knowledge gained from science is actual knowledge.
16/ Any other type of knowledge, so believes our collective elephant as a culture, since it can’t by definition be actual knowledge, must necessarily be due to one or more of the following: flawed logic, low IQ, low information, lack of education, superstition, faith, ideological, bigoted, nefarious, evil.
17/ But here’s the thing, there ARE legitimate, logically sound, evidence-based, types of knowledge and paths to truth beyond just that of science. Here’s an explanation of some of them: Evidence Type Must Match Assertion Type
18/ And what’s more, some people are more naturally predisposed by their genetic makeup to resonate not only with WEIRD thinking, but also with those other non-WEIRD types of thinking.
19/ The WAY people think shapes WHAT they think, INCLUDING what counts as evidence and what doesn’t, what qualifies as true and what isn’t, and which values are important and which are not.
20/ For example:
People with whom WEIRD thinking resonates tend to value intelligence, education, credentials, and achievement.
21/ People with whom the other styles of thinking also resonate tend to gravitate toward values centered on family, friends, community, camaraderie, and, almost necessarily because of all the other factors, location; i.e., home.
22/ In short, style of thought is an immutable trait. We are predisposed by the DNA we inherit from our parents, and from our long familial ancestry before them, to gravitate toward one or the other types of thinking.
22a/ ADDENDUM: Note the presence in this statement of the word “predisposed” and the absence of the word “predetermined.” I’m not saying we’re hardwired from birth to think in only one rigid way (predetermined). But I’m also not saying that the range of ways in which we might think is totally unlimited (unconstrained). I am saying that reality is somewhere in between those extremes. I’m saying that the range of possible ways in which any individual might think has limits (constrained), and that those limits are determined by our genes.
The concept is similar to that of the performance envelope of an airplane. If we were to draw a graph of the maximum and minimum speeds at which a plane can operate at any given altitude we would end up with a two-dimensional shape like a trapezoid, the limits of which are determined by its design. The position within that envelope that the plane occupies at any particular moment is determined by current settings of the aircraft and conditions of the environment.
The same sort of thing happens with the way we think, where the “design” is our genetic make up. Our genes create a performance envelope for each of us. The position within that envelop we occupy at any one moment is determined by things like the way we were brought up, the education we’ve received, the experiences we’ve had, and the current conditions of the environment in which we find ourselves.
I’m also not saying this is a binary. black or white dichotomy.
If we were to plot on a graph the bell curve of WEIRD thinkers and the bell curve of Holistic thinkers the two curves would have different peaks but plenty of overlap in the adjacent shoulders.
Nonetheless, the differences in the curves are distinct enough that it is possible to make some generalized conclusions about each.
23/ Unlike skin color the immutable trait of cognitive style is invisible to the eye, but it’s there nonetheless.
For evidence I offer the following:
24/ The cognitive styles described here are paraphrased versions of the findings of Chris Arnade in his book Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America.
Arnade’s findings correlate strongly, one could argue are congruent, with those of Jon Haidt in his book The Righteous Mind.
25/ The findings of Arnade and Haidt are similarly congruent with those of Thomas Sowell in A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles, Arthur Herman in The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle, and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization, and Charles Murray in Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.
26/ In short it is NOT TRUE that the political divide is between essentially similar people who happen to vote differently because of external influences of the environment in which they grew up and live.
27/ Rather, it IS TRUE that the partisan divide is between different *types of people* differentiated by immutable, inherited, genetic traits.
Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences, by Hibbing, Smith, and Alford.
28/ This being the case, the political divide, the “Coming Apart” described by Charles Murray takes on a whole new, frankly ominous, meaning.
29/ The WEIRD thinkers, Arande’s Front Row, being less attached to location, are far less reticent than non-weird thinkers to pull up stakes and physically move to places that appeal to them. Typically those places are the nation’s large urban areas where the values that resonate with WEIRD thinkers are the coin of the realm. This is true in US, UK, Australia, etc.
30/ It just so happens that large urban areas are also for the most part the locations in which and from which the industries and institutions that have de facto control of the culture – the collective group-level elephant – are owned and operated: media, entertainment, education, the legal system.
31/ The domino effect of this situation is devastating to civil society.
Since WEIRD thinking and WEIRD values enjoy hegemonic control of pretty much everything, the cultural deck, society itself, is stacked against everyone else.
ADDENDUM: Some might argue that recent election wins by conservatives mean that they, not the left, are in power. Government is only one of the several institutions that control the culture, and of those institutions it is by no means the strongest. The last line of defense between absolute total control of everything by WEIRD thinking and values is the ballot box, and in the U.S. the electoral college, without which non-WEIRD thinking and values would have absolutely no voice whatsoever.
32/ Only WEIRD thinking counts as actual thinking. Only “Scientific” argumentation counts as valid reasoning. WEIRD values are the unspoken norm that “everybody” knows, which form the assumptions and presumptions that undergird society itself. and debates about it as well.
33/ This in turn creates the exact set of circumstances the Civil Rights Acts – and the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution upon which they are based – were meant to thwart. Namely, …
34/ … The disparate impact of
hidden, subtle, covert, discrimination,
not so hidden, not so subtle, overt, outright bigotry,
against “others” based on immutable traits with which they are born, over which they have no control.
35/ From which the current threat to free speech and the near total absence of heterodoxy in academia, and the bad science and incorrect findings that result, are mere collateral damage.
36/ And also from which more direct damage comes in the form of deplatforming, shut downs, shout downs, mobbing, vandalism, riots, and straight up physical attack.
37/ All of this, and more, is what I’m trying to illustrate, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly, through my activities here on Twitter, on my blog, and in my published essays.
38/ I’m highlighting what I see as the hidden assumptions of Front Row values and the unspoken rules of engagement of WEIRD cognition that dominate the culture and function to suppress and oppress the values and thinking of “others” who are different.
39/ I’m not always good at it. My style is not always elegant, my wording is not always eloquent. I may seem combative. Without the backstory of this blog post it may be difficult for some people to fathom where I’m coming from and what I’m trying to achieve, or maybe eve to follow what may look to them like random nonsensical logic of a tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy theorist.
40/ So be it. I am what I am. A guy with an average IQ and a red-state flyover-country brain who grew up in and lived his entire adult life in the bluest of the blue state super-zips.
I’m a non-WEIRD red fish swimming in deep blue WEIRD water.
41/ I’m a holistic thinker with a degree in mechanical engineering and a masters degree in management (arguably a social science), with intensive training in rigorous hard-science-style analysis methods adapted for use in soft-science disciplines.
42/ My analyses can be plodding, mechanical, dry. As can my writing. Hemingway I’m not. But if I have a talent at all, to which I’m sure many would say, NO, it is consilience; an ability to recognize patterns that are consistent across seemingly unrelated disciplines and topics.
43/ That said. I’m an adult human in today’s world who believes in himself and his ideas who therefore acquiesces to no one based on credentials or IQ alone. Ideas matter regardless from whom they come. I fight for mine in the marketplace in which they trade.
44/ Effective treatment of a disease requires an accurate diagnosis of its cause. Almost everything I write centers on one or more of the following: diagnosing the cause of the disease, describing its symptoms and effects, prescribing a vaccine that if administered might ameliorate the harm the disease inflicts.